NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have unique opportunities for cooperation, said UAE Ambassador to Kazakhstan Mohamed Ahmed bin Sultan Al Jaber in an exclusive interview with The Astana Times.
Kazakh and UAE diplomatic relations have been growing at a dynamic pace since being established in 1992. The countries continue to build close and trusting relations through mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation.
“Undoubtedly, the dynamics of meetings at the highest level testify to an unprecedented interaction from the perspective of international relations, thanks to which cooperation between Kazakhstan and the UAE is moving forward. For its part, the UAE Embassy is making efforts to maintain close contacts and to coordinate cooperation. An important milestone in bilateral relations is the establishment of a one-month visa free regime for Kazakh citizens travelling to the Emirates. It certainly gave a positive impetus to bilateral relations,” he said. Kazakhstan, likewise, included the UAE in the list of countries whose citizens enjoy a one-month visa free travel to the Central Asian nation.
Converging cooperation approaches create unique opportunities for mutually beneficial joint projects in fields such as construction, chemistry, transportation and logistics, railway, engineering and space.
The largest bilateral construction investment project is the $1.2 billion Abu Dhabi Plaza multifunctional complex in the capital. Contacts are being developed with Mubadala (UAE state investment and development company), the National Corporation for Nuclear Energy and Dubai International Financial Centre.
The breakthrough chemical project is constructing an integrated gas chemical complex (IGCC) and polypropylene plant in the National Industrial Petrochemical Technopark special economic zone (SEZ) in the Atyrau Region, a testament to the long-term nature of the partnership.
Two important framework agreements have been signed in transportation and logistics. The first involves the basic principles of DP World’s participation in capital for the Khorgos-Eastern Gate Special Economic Zone (SEZ) management company. The agreement between the Mangistau Region akimat (administration) and DP World to purchase 49 percent of the Aktau Seaport SEZ shares will help develop the seaport. Both agreements are set to help expand the country’s transport potential.
DP World, which operates terminals, free zones and ports globally, will utilise its best management experience at the Jebel Ali free economic zone and together with Kazakh partners, ensure attracting approximately $1 billion in investments to Kazakhstan by the end of this year. Cooperation with the largest port operator will allow Kazakhstan to strengthen SEZ work in Aktau and Khorgos and provide a powerful impetus for growing the country’s investment potential.
Developing military and technical cooperation and assisting Kazakh machine-building enterprises in accessing UAE distribution channels are another promising bilateral cooperation area. Kazakhstan currently has a representative engineering office in the Khalifa Industrial Zone (Kizad) in Abu Dhabi.
Kazakhstan and the UAE have made a significant breakthrough in space cooperation. The countries are currently promoting joint space exploration projects, as well as working on the rocket complex at Baikonur and the possibility of coordinating to modernise the Soyuz launch site. Kazakh, Russian and UAE space agency representatives signed a protocol last year to expand trilateral space cooperation, a project to be implemented by 2025. The joint activities constitute a logical extension of space cooperation and the Baiterek project feasibility study will begin this year. An Emirati astronaut flew to the International Space Station in September 2019, making the UAE the 19th country to visit.
“Three years ago, I was appointed the UAE ambassador to Kazakhstan and throughout the time, I can say that the approach is changing. Whereas in the past bilateral cooperation may have been conducted mostly on a high level, today we face the process of promoting collaboration in many different fields,” said Al Jaber.
Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) meetings represent an important step in developing Kazakh-Emirati trade-economic relations, acting as a platform to resolve the main issues to enhance cooperation between the countries. IGC has held seven meetings to date, the last on Sept. 8-9, 2019.
There has been a remarkable growth in recent years in bilateral trade and economic cooperation. Trade turnover from 2005-2019 was $3.7 billion and UAE investments in Kazakhstan exceeded $2 billion. As trade ties continue to grow, they have contributed significantly to establishing several joint agriculture, energy and mining projects and other evolving promising projects.
Cultural and humanitarian cooperation, noted Al Jaber, is the basis for strengthening mutual trust and friendship, as cultural events show the differences and commonalities between the two cultures. Each event deepens interest and opens prospects for cooperation in various fields. The most significant are exhibitions of decorative and applied art, cultural days and movie screenings.
“I always say that Kazakhstan and the UAE have all the real opportunities to establish the bridge that connects the two most important regions in the world, through which we will be able to exchange not only goods and services, but also scientific thought and cultural values. We have everything for this – a solid legal base, mutual support, coincidence of priorities, resources and readiness for practical steps. I believe that in 2020 our countries will expand and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation,” he said.
Al Jaber also spoke about the upcoming visit of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to the UAE. He feels the trip will provide the impetus for cooperation between the UAE and Kazakhstan, the basis of which was established by the leaders of both nations – UAE founder His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan and First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev.
“We expect new agreements to be reached during the meetings. It will help to enhance strategic partnership between Kazakhstan and the UAE. Undoubtedly, President Tokayev’s visit testifies to an unprecedented interaction from the perspective of international relations, thanks to which the cooperation between Kazakhstan and the UAE is moving forward,” he added.